Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ode to the dead on both sides

In 1990 I remember Shelby Foote saying the final lines to Ken Burns Civil War series. He was recounting a Civil War inscription located on a tombstone in St. Louis, Missouri. Here are the words.

Many years after the Civil War, Sergeant Berry Benson, a South Carolina veteran from McGowan's brigade, Army of Northern Virginia, who had enlisted at age 18, three months before Fort Sumter was fired upon, and served through Appomattox, made an interesting statement. He said that when he got around to composing his reminiscences, he found that reliving the war in words made him wish he could relive it in fact, and he came to believe that he and his fellow soldiers, gray and blue, might one day be able to to do just that; if not here on earth, then afterwards in Valhalla. "Who knows, " he asked, "but it may be given to us, after this life, to meet again in the old quarters, to play chess and draughts, to get up soon to answer the morning roll call, to fall in at the tap of the drum for drill and dress parade, and again to hastily don our war gear while the monotonous patter of the long roll summons to battle? Who knows but again the old flags, ragged and torn, snapping in the wind, may face each other and flutter, pursuing and pursued, while the cries of victory fill a summer day? And after the batrtle, then the slain and wounded will arise, and all will be talking and laughter and cheers, and all will say: Did it not seem real? Was it not as in the old days?" (from The Civil War: a Narrative: Volume III. Red River to Appomattox by Shelby Foote. New York: Vintage Books, 1986. p. 1048).

Pvt. Berry Benson, 1st South Carolina Rifles Regiment; Berry Benson’s Reminiscences of the Civil War, S.W. Benson, editor, 1962

Everytime I hear that I get goosebumps and I wonder are the rebs and the yanks are duking it out in heaven. Wow this is powerful stuff.

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